Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of September 2016, Plus a Look at Drought Nationally

Here is the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s monthly water-status report on precipitation, stream flow, and drought, as of the end of September 2016.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing the data and maps used in this post.  Icons for precipitation, stream flow, and drought are by George Wills of Blacksburg, Va. (  For previous monthly water status reports, please see this link:


Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for September 2016 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, along with the “normal” (three-decade average) for this month of the year at each location.  Also shown are the precipitation totals at each location for the previous 12 months and the annual precipitation normals for each location.  All values are in inches.

Location September 2016



Monthly Normal October 2015-

September 2016 Precipitation


Annual Normal
Blacksburg 6.71 3.10 48.41 40.89
Bluefield1 0.88 3.14 38.57 39.63
Bristol2 2.57 2.99 38.99 41.01
Charlottesville3 3.66 4.48 42.18 42.71
Danville 2.91 3.96 55.13 44.41
Lynchburg 3.38 3.88 49.93 41.57
Norfolk 13.54 4.76 67.01 46.53
Richmond 11.19 4.13 57.72 43.60
Roanoke 4.75 3.89 53.17 41.25
Wallops Island4 11.90 3.98 55.41 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 2.55 3.92 40.32 41.54

Location notes
1 – The Bluefield location is the Mercer County, W. Va., airport, near the Va.-W.Va. state line.
2- The Bristol location Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va./Tenn.
3 – The Charlottesville location is the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.
4 – Wallops Island is in Accomack County.
5 – Washington-Dulles Airport is in Loudoun County.

Precipitation sources:  Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va. (;
Morristown, Tenn. (;
Baltimore-Washington (; and
Wakefield, Va. (

The normal values used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in these provisional reports are based on the period from 1981 to 2010.  The National Climatic Data Center released these normal values in July 2011.  For information on the normal values, see the National Climatic Data Center Web page at

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at, where you can find maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days; or the NWS’ Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service at for a map of precipitation nationwide or by state, with capability to show county boundaries, and archives available for specific days, months, or years.  Shown below are the Southeast Regional Climate Center’s preliminary maps of the percent-of-normal precipitation for the previous 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, through September 30, 2016.



According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at, monthly average stream flow values for September 2016 at 153 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 72% of gages, above normal at about 20%, and below normal at about 8%.  The color-coded, flow-percentile map for this period is shown below.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are shown in the chart below the map.


stream codes

An overall look at Virginia streamflow conditions is provided in the USGS WaterWatch summary plot of 7-day average streamflow conditions.  Below is the summary plot for 88 Virginia sites during the 45-day period ending September 29, 2016, accessed at on October 1, 2016.



Information on current groundwater levels in Virginia monitoring wells is available from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System, online at; and from the USGS Climate Response Network, online at (at that page, you can find a national map showing the status of groundwater monitoring wells compared to historical values).



The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( for September 27, 2016, showed about 85% of Virginia as “abnormally dry,” covering all of the state except the Eastern Shore, the lower portions of the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula, and Lower Peninsula, and the southeastern corner.  It also showed about 0.8% of Virginia, mostly in Loudoun County, in “moderate drought.”

Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.”

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
8/30/16 – about 5% abnormally dry;
7/26/16 – about 6% abnormally dry;
6/28/16 – about 3% abnormally dry;
9/29/15 – about 35% abnormally dry.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent (as of 9/1/16) Drought Status Report on September 12, 2016.  A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at  The Task Force’s reports typically include information from some or all of the following agencies: University of Virginia Climatology Office, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Virginia departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Health, and Environmental Quality.

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a daily map rating drought-status indicators.  Shown below is daily map for September 30, 2016.  The status-indicator abbreviations on that map are as follows: GW = groundwater levels, Prcp = precipitation deficits, Res – reservoir storage, and Flow = stream flow conditions.  For each region of Virginia, the indicators are color coded for “normal,” “watch,” “warning,” or “emergency conditions.”  Any given day’s current map and more information on drought status in Virginia are available the Task Force Web site listed above.



The September 27, 2016, U.S. Drought Monitor rated about 38.8% of the United States (including all or parts of 46 states, plus Puerto Rico) as being abnormally dry or worse.  The Drought Monitor rated about 6.8% of the country (including parts of 24 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4).  The highest percentage in the severe-or-worse categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000 was 38.5% of the country for the week of August 7, 2012.

The nationwide percentages for abnormally dry or worse (D0-D4) and severe or worse (D2-D4) in the previous three months and one year ago were as follows:

8/30/16 – 37.7% abnormally dry or worse; 6.1% severe drought or worse;
7/26/16 – 46.1% abnormally dry or worse; 6.0% severe drought or worse;
6/28/16 – 40.8% abnormally dry or worse; 4.6% severe drought or worse;
9/29/15 – 53.0% abnormally dry or worse; 16.8% severe drought or worse.
In the following states, 50 percent of more of the state was rated by the September 27 Drought Monitor as in severe-or-worse drought (that is, in Categories D2, D3, or D4):

California, 62.3% – This severe-or-worse percentage, which began the week of 9/13/16, is a slight increase from the 59.0% in California between 5/31/16 and 9/6/16; the latter percentage was the lowest reported by the Drought Monitor for The Golden State since 53.5% in the Drought Monitor of 6/11/13.  California’s current drought began in late 2011 to early 2012.

Connecticut, 69%.  This severe-or-worse rating, which has been the case for Connecticut since 9/13/16, is the highest for The Constitution State since 84% in the Drought Monitor of 4/17/12.

Massachusetts, 90% – This severe-or-worse rating, which has been the case for Massachusetts since 9/13/16, is the highest for The Bay State since 99% in the Drought Monitor of 3/26/02.

Rhode Island, 84%.  This severe-or-worse rating, which has been the case for Rhode Island since 9/13/16, is the highest for The Ocean State since 100% in the Drought Monitor of 4/17/12.


For a look ahead, the National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center’s “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” is available at  Shown below is the outlook map available on September 30, 2016.


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